DWTS' Icons Night Celebrates Larger-Than-Life Musical Icons
by Kim Krober
It was Icons Night on Dancing with the Stars, with tributes to some of the biggest names in pop, rock, and hip-hop. The best part was seeing the judges channel their favorite icons. Bruno brought out his inner George Michael, Derek was a sexy David Bowie with eyeliner and accent, Tyra looked like Jenny from the Block (J-Lo) and Nicki Minaj in more flattering outfits, and Carrie Ann claimed she wasn't anyone specific but Tyra thought she looked like Mariah Carey.
It's hard to believe we're down to just six couples after this episode with the finale close in sight. Since Nev and Jenna were at the top of last week's leader board and have the highest cumulative score all season, they were granted immunity from participating in the Dance-Off Round. During this secondary round of competition, couples were pitted against each other for the opportunity to earn two bonus points to their scores. In a week in which every point matters because nobody wants to go home just short of Semi-Finals, every dance-off was fierce. Let's take a look at how your favorites did on this ninth week of competition:
Justina Machado & Sasha Farber, Rumba
Justina and Sasha danced a Rumba to one of my favorite Madonna songs - "Crazy For You." I loved her outfit - she totally nailed the Madonna vibes! Derek wanted to see more dynamics, saying he wasn't engaged the entire time. Bruno thought it brought out the softer side of Madonna and Justina, but he agreed with Derek that her hips could've been more engaged with the dance. Carrie Ann concurred but told her she's still a dynamic performer.
Nelly & Daniella Karagach, Jazz
In what was likely a first for this program, Nelly and Daniella mixed it up with a Jazz routine to 2Pac's "California Love." I absolutely loved it - Nelly looked like he was letting loose and having so much fun this week! Bruno said Jazz Nelly style makes him smile because he enjoyed seeing his ease. Carrie Ann complimented him for being on the track and bringing them along on his personal journey with the dance. Derek loved the elements, the joy, and celebratory fun, even though he had to note there were a few mistakes.
AJ McLean & Cheryl Burke, Viennese Waltz
AJ and Cheryl's Viennese Waltz to Queen's "Somebody to Love" was lovely and regal, but he's running out of time to have his breakthrough performance. Carrie Ann said it started strong with him in the zone, but then he quickly forgot the choreography and it showed. Derek could tell he had improved in frame, but he cautioned him about channeling strength in his movements and not always on his face. Bruno said when he tensed he looked like an airplane wing, but he knows he'll be back to keep improving.
Kaitlyn Bristowe & Artem Chigvintsev, Argentine Tango
Kaitlyn and Artem danced a shiny Argentine Tango to "Toxic" by Britney Spears. Derek gave her a slow clap, admiring the impact, exquisite lines, and well-done choreography. Bruno declared now she's in business, admiring her luscious shapes and beautiful images, saying they rival those of a painting in a museum. Carrie Ann gave her a standing ovation, saying it was elegant, passionate, and everything the judges have been wanting from her all season. She earned a perfect score from the judges, but was it enough to keep her around in the competition?
Johnny Weir & Britt Stewart, Quickstep
I enjoyed hearing Johnny's story of redemption at the Olympics and it was obvious how much icon Amy Winehouse and her music meant to him. Johnny and Britt's Quickstep to Winehouse's "Valerie" was a delight to watch. Bruno called it unique and ground-breaking with a spot-on impersonation of the character and a precise, perfect Quickstep. Carrie Ann commended him for pulling off a creative Quickstep the likes of which has never been seen on this program. Derek admired the footwork, technique, and Johnny for being himself. It was another perfect judges' score!
Skai Jackson & Alan Bersten, Paso Doble
Skai and Alan's Paso Doble to Janet Jackson's "If" showed a different facet to her personality. She looked fierce and confident on the dance floor. Carrie Ann thanked her for sharing her story and for such an iconic dance. Derek told her she's bold, brave, strong, and confident but also said she needs to watch the tension in her arms. Bruno noted it was one of the most grown-up dances yet with plenty of beauty, strength, and passion. She was almost unrecognizable while channeling her inner Janet. I was more impressed by her this week than any other.
Nev Schulman & Jenna Johnson, Jive
Nev and Jenna's Jive to Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" was a great way to end the first round. It was exuberant from start to finish and so much fun to watch him bring out even more of his inner ham. Derek loved seeing his growth and passion, complimenting the charisma and content. Bruno called him Rocket Man at his most entertaining, saying the characterization was delicious. Carrie Ann told him he's a pleasure to watch and praised him for stylizing his routine a little more and more each week.
Justina and Sasha Vs. Kaitlyn and Artem, Cha Cha
Justina and Sasha faced off against Kaitlyn and Artem for a Cha Cha dance-off set to Lady Gaga and Beyonce's "Telephone." Derek felt like one couple stood out. Bruno felt plenty of Latin fire and passion from one and elegance and precision from the other. Carrie Ann said it was like comparing sugar and spice. It was a lot closer than I thought.
Winner: Justina and Sasha
Nelly and Daniella Vs. Skai and Alan, Salsa
Nelly and Daniella faced off against Skai and Alan in a hip-shaking Salsa dance-off to "Cup of Life" by Ricky Martin. I see you with your shirt off, Nelly! Bruno was distracted by Nelly's muscles too. Carrie Ann admired the non-stop action from both couples, but she called it old school vs. new school groove. Derek likened it to a boxing match, noting both couples were on fire and it could go either way. That was my sentiment while watching.
Winner: Skai and Alan
AJ and Cheryl Vs. Johnny and Britt, Jive
AJ and Cheryl faced off against Johnny and Britt in a spirited Jive dance-off set to "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" by Wham! Carrie Ann thought both were great, complimenting AJ for his stamina and Johnny for his technique. Derek gave a shout out to all of the pros for coming up with creative choreography for both dances and week after week. Bruno felt one had more pumping action, but the other had more musicality. The judges seemed really split.
Winner: AJ & Cheryl
It was revealed AJ and Cheryl and Johnny and Britt were in jeopardy in the most shocking elimination of the season. Bruno saved Johnny. Derek saved AJ. Carrie Ann was the tie-breaker, choosing to save Johnny and Britt for their unique artistry. I know it was the toughest decision yet, but it would have broken my heart if Johnny didn't make it to the Semi-Finals. He's worked so hard and brings so much to this competition that I can't put into words. And it will break my heart if he doesn't get to do a freestyle. Do you think the judges made the right decision this week?
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8:00 PM on ABC.